By Patrick Dele Cole
19 November 2014
ISLAMIC world view today is a destabilizing factor in world politics – which view has no place for non-Moslems – except to die by the sword – Kafirs – fit only for slaughter. Islam does not encourage tolerance. Where Christian and Muslim co-exist – it is usually a reality that any other option would lead to unbearable violence. Muslims do not accept the existence of non-Moslems as co-equal creations of God/Allah. For them the existence of non-Moslems is an unfriendly business which would be completed when the time is right. Early Christians were forged by the same mould – that Muslims were unfit to live; and were illegal occupiers of Christian Holy places and that Christians held a duty to crusade and move Moslems out of Jerusalem.
Islam like other religions, does not encourage inter social and inter ethnic marriages. In its fundamental form, it abhors music and dancing; it condemns to death any Moslem marrying outside the religion.
Much of the above could be contradicted by many Muslim sects. Many Muslim countries have sexy belly dancers – do they regard this as an aberration of Islamic standards or a Turkish embellishment, adopted widely by Arabic nations?
When we talk about Islam do we mean Arabic or attitudes that go far beyond Arabic as the Islamic religion which exist in many countries far removed from Arabia – Serbia, China, Pakistani, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Indonesia, India, etc.
This is the knob of the confusion of dealing with Islam. It is never clear when one is dealing with Islam that in reality you are dealing with Arab/Moors. (There are millions of Arab Christians – Egypt, Lebanon, and Syria). Nevertheless the Arab Moslems seem to be united in their suspicion of Westernization. This is ironic because it was the West that created most of the countries of the Middle East: the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Jordan, and Iraq as recent ago as the 1930s. Is this then the explanation for their hatred of the West?
No peace-makers; very many war makers – a maxim true of Moslems today.
The centrality of the doctrine of love (same as in Islam?) but in Christianity goes further; it becomes the role of Christ coming to sacrifice himself out of love for humanity. That doctrine is the basis of the tolerance and equality – concepts that find fine expression not only in democracy but in respect for human lives and ultimately equality and freedom.
The stress of equal human rights is the basis of the end of all discrimination, colonialism, neo-imperialism and what ironically gives Moslem people the support, so necessary, when they are perceived to have been discriminated against by the West. I do not find a corresponding ethos in Islam for downtrodden people who are not Moslems. Nor do I find a corresponding revulsion felt and expressed when Muslims clearly violate this inviolable principle of human rights and equality.
Indeed the religious attitude to blacks, women, and the underprivileged is basically that these groups deserve what they get, that the Holy Prophet saw these glaring inconsistencies but pronounced little about them. And because he did not, and since Islam is a way of life, barbarous treatment of the downtrodden, the criminal, the Kafir, women sit comfortably with regimes that stone women, cut off hands, etc. This is done in the name of religion. Where are the reformists within Islam who argue that behaviours such as described above are basically inhuman? Islam is not the only religion that has practised untold inhumanity against its own people, and strangers but those regimes have long past and have no hope of resuscitation. How could you imprison somebody for watching volley ball? Stone a woman for marrying outside her religion? (Before Western Christians begin to feel superior it was not so long ago when they killed a man for stealing a chicken!)
It is instructive that these are not issues of great movements in Islamic countries. It is true the West cherry picks these embarrassing moments to criticize one regime or the other. But my pain is that I cannot really discuss any of these matters with my Islamic friends: I am certain they do not discuss them among themselves.
Moslem women, I am told are satisfied with their roles within the Islamic pantheon. I am further astonished that more women have become Presidents in clearly Islamic States than in non-Muslims ones. These facts fly in the face of fears of wholesome discrimination against women. In Nigeria here, for reasons too complex to go into, we have a plethora of female judges and Permanent Secretaries and Ministers without that doing violence to Islam.
Perhaps that is the rub: Islam is not evolving enough to accept modern human rights for all not only for the exceptional. Other religions have people who interpret doctrine and thereby integrate it with “modern life”- thus you have at the pinnacle of Catholicism – the Pope, the Anglicans – the Archbishop.
Ideally the Islamic Government will be a theocracy- the most learned to be Caliph. But there is and will be a role for the Holy man, the itinerant, preacher, until they settled. Nigeria has seen its Questa of holy men from Mali, Senegal, etc who have our political leaders in a vice-grip through Islamic ministrations. No one believes that the Sultan of Arabia is the Caliph; there is no single interpreter of Islam, an intercessor between Mohammed and Man.
The body of writings of Islam could be used to justify any atrocity provided it is understood as a Jihad. Is fighting Boko Haram a Jihad? What is Haram in Nigeria is clearly not Haram in Qatar or Serbia let alone the justification of unheard of barbarity – taking 260 girls from a school – for what?? It is true that our Muslim leaders have been condemning Boko Haram, but surely this goes beyond mere condemnation. When similar unorthodox religion arose in Waco, Texas, USA, and in Guyana the first line of attack was to infiltrate them by the security forces and in a botched attempt to bring down Waco a mini war ensued killing several dozens.
My problem with the Muslims in Nigeria and their response to Boko Haram is that they are not sufficiently angry. They have to do something beyond pious declarations in newspapers. There are some who believe that the whole Boko Haram imbroglio is financed and supported by so called respectable Northern Leaders. Nobody in the 21st century captures schoolgirls, and forcefully turns them into Moslem so as to marry them off!!
Nothing is more self justifying than religion but even so, in 2014, all conflicts in the world except Ukraine is Muslim based, backed and perpetrated – unfortunately it is Moslem killing Moslems, but they have shown an extraordinary capacity to kill non-Moslems outside their own countries.
To what end? There is an undercurrent belief that these wars in the Middle East, Africa – are aimed at dismantling the solutions the West imposed on the regions between 1914 and 1936 – the creation of Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, Syria, Jordan, Palestine, Algeria, Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Nigeria Mali, Chad, Niger, Cameron, etc. In short, to dress these incessant insurgencies in some geopolitical garment. ISIS has now claimed territory. The War Lords in Libya are claiming territory just as Boko Haram is doing in Nigeria.
Islam, I am told, means peace. If this is so, then there is little Islam in the world today and Islam has a very odd way of showing peace. All areas of the world where there is conflict and war – Islam is there – Algeria, Libya, Egypt, Israel/Palestine, Yemen, Sudan, India/Pakistan, Pakistan/Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Nigeria. Christianity and Islam are the two religions in which we worship a Man God, but He is unrepresented by any object and His teachings are embodied in one book, the Koran or the Bible. Moslems believe that the book of the Koran itself is Holy because it contains the words dictated by Allah to Mohammed who faithfully recorded His words. I believe these basic tenets are also accepted by Judaism – one God, unrepresented and unrepresentable, whose words, Moses copied and is kept as the Torah, in the holiest of places.
Both Judaism and Islam had earlier on found cause to fight Christianity which by and large is today represented by the West. Of late, fundamentalism and radicalism has tended to find expression in anti-western feelings; the disgruntled British and American citizens descended from the Middle East have been finding common cause and going to fight in the Middle East.
Nigerians have once more formed an extremist group called Boko Haram – literally that western education is sinful. In the past few weeks, the untold violence in humanity has been unleashed by these disgruntled elements on all who they disagree with including their own Moslem brothers.
I am not going to spend time to show that the Western education so virulently hated is a part of Moslem education from which the West borrowed the numerals, medicine, chemistry, knowledge of the universe, astrology and astronomy, sea faring, etc. Education as a process is unique – borrowing from all cultures to make life more pleasurable and abundant and even meaningful: to accumulate, store and use knowledge for good or evil (nuclear bomb).
But the singular contribution of all civilization culminating in what we have is tolerance. Some freedom and the right to a society that would allow you fulfill your potential. All religions, including Islam have learnt to accept that not all who do not proclaim the faith are profane; they have come to accept that human rights are a universal precept from which they cannot and must not escape; that the right to life is inviolable and if you unjustly take life you will be killed or punished.
Many do not see this but it is because they have not followed the logic of existentialism. Some people point to the failures and double standards of the West. But the essence of the concept still remains intact even if breached every now and again.
In both Islam and Christianity; and Judaism, there is plenty that is exclusive; there is enough brimstone and fire to consume our enemies, there is enough blood of Christ to protect us against weapons fashioned for our destruction.
These are concepts of comfort, a restatement of freedom for you to go ahead and do what you must and can, provided it is within the law and does not violate human rights. If it were not so, then we are in the realm of pure chaos, a return to the state of nations, as described by Hobbes.
A nuclear bomb in the hands of ISIS or Boko Haram would be used against their perceived enemies. Anyone who can descend to the bestiality of Boko Haram cannot be trusted to treat non-Moslems with compassion. Boko Haram has not issued one word about living in peace with non-Moslems. So far as one can gather, it is “convert or die”. It is true that atrocities are committed against Moslems by Boko Haram and ISIS – but their ultimate goal of establishing an Islamic State has been unequivocal.
What is Government doing about Chibok and Boko Haram? We have had the Niger Delta Militants, the Agbekoya and similar low insurgency units. I cannot remember how many times Obasanjo sent me to bring D.S.P. Alamieyeseigha right or Goodluck Jonathan to Aso Rock with Obasanjo’s command and ringing with airs to go and release hostages. They did.
The Niger Delta militancy started as politicians sought to protect themselves and their votes from rivals. In Rivers, there was deep rivalry between Sergeant Awuse, Marshall Harry, Peter Odili, Aminasoari Dikibo, each supported by a gang of political thugs. In Bayelsa there was rivalry between Pere Ajuwa, D.S.P. Alamieyeseigha, Charles Dogu, Obule; Delta was torn apart by thugs of James Ibori, Great Ogboru and others. The Niger Delta militants the world was to read about were the political thugs of politicians, who found that they had little use for large numbers of thugs after the elections. Many were trained by mercenaries from South Africa, Britain, Israel etc. They, for their part, felt that their erstwhile masters were blowing hot and cold. They were trained, armed and dangerous. The poverty of the area and degraded environment provided some philosophical casus belli for them; they started hostage taking and bunkering leading to a mid level insurgency of the area.
Similarly in the North East, the politicians openly recruited thugs. In Borno, the hostility between Bunu Sherriff and Ibrahim Bunu, despite the fact that they married two sisters, was legendary. In Adamawa, Atiku and Tukur were open rivals, such that if an event was in Yola, all their visitors knew you had to visit both or sometimes three (there is a third person whose name escapes me); if you were there at lunch time the visitor had to have three lunches!!! I would not be surprised if the first members of Boko Haram did not come from these politically disaffected but active groups. This does not say that Atiku or Bamanga or Sheriff or Bunu were responsible for Boko Haram or in any way encouraged them, but I would be very surprised if, as in the Niger Delta, these were not the origins of militancy. As stated earlier, we knew who these men were in the Niger Delta, we knew their parents, girl friends, wives, sisters, brothers, teachers, mentors etc. I am sure that in the North East, the knowledge of members of Boko Haram is equally widespread. My quarrel is with the closet Boko Haramists who know them, share their aspirations and pretend otherwise.
I believe that members of the Boko Haram went to school and live in Nigeria; they have parents, brothers and sisters; a lemmas and spiritual leaders. If they cannot be found, it is because their people are hiding them. But their people also went to school, mosques, and markets and socialized with others. I cannot teach our intelligence officers what to do but I can certainly raise questions about what they obviously are not doing? The Militants of the Niger Delta were known even if there was little anyone could do; to stop them.
Radical Islam seems bent on living in a time warp; unfortunately even conservative Islam follows these trends: I saw a sign in a mall in Dubai forbidding “excessive show of affection in public”. How can love offend the sensibilities of a human being? We all accept that the standard of behaviour of younger generation is sometimes not up to our standards but we learn to accommodate such behaviour. Islam has to prepare itself for the 21st century beyond its wholesale adoption of the Kalashnikov and violence. There are too many Muslims willing to accept the need for a jihad dying for a higher cause with the certainty that the dead martyr is destined to go straight to heaven and to the arms of 70 virgins!!. I hope this is not the true motivation for suicide bombings. It is difficult enough to deal with one virgin!!
In the new world order, what moves man is his affection of his fellow man, the belief in the intrinsic essence of shared humanity and a respect for our differences? The modern world has no room for a theocracy – all religions have tried this and failed; we all live in a modern state, with laws, definite boundaries, shared beliefs, and respect. A modern state with considerable freedom of movement, health and education systems, the enthronement of individual rights and the rule of law, communications. The renaming of an area cannot make it a state – which passport will those in the new areas of ISIS, Libya, North East Nigeria – will they use? There will continually be a separation of religion and the state despite all that is said in the Holy Books.
When Ojukwu declared Biafra or secession of country, the rest of Nigeria was mobilized to keep Nigeria one. After these many years we see a fissiparous tendency towards cessation. It would be a shame if religion were to be the basis of secession. We have not seen a massive mobilization effort to keep Nigeria one in the present secession moves of Boko Haram. Why??
Boko Haram poses an existential threat to Nigeria. The response of Governments to this threat is at best lukewarm, at worst, co-operative. Politicians, who have their head in the sand like the proverbial ostrich, will find that they have no country to govern.
Dr. Cole, Nigeria’s former Ambassador to Brazil, wrote from Lagos.